By CHRISTOPHER PAPIALI
Churches play a vital role in building the nation. Our Constitution recognises and give prominence to Christianity. It explicitly declares: “WE, THE PEOPLE, do now establish this sovereign nation and declare ourselves, UNDER THE GUIDING HAND OF GOD, to be the Independent State of Papua New Guinea.
The Strategic Pillar Number 6 of Vision 2050 calls for spiritual development of our people and directs the State to welcome and include the Church as key partners in nation building. Section 16.2 directs the government to ‘develop love and respect for God, humanity and God’s creation’. It also calls for the need to ‘instil positive attitudes and values of respect, integrity, excellence, and discipline in people’ and the priority activity to achieve this outcome is to ‘introduce religious instructions at all levels of education and fellowship in all government offices and SOEs’.
Reference to the Worship of our God is made prominence when the National parliamentarians rise prior to every parliament session with an Opening Prayer. This is an indication of putting the nation right with God, accepting His presence in all political decisions in nation building.
The act of prayer therefore signifies unity among all political leaders, parties and other people put in charge of government institutions.
Likewise, the critical church building initiative is the call for unity among all churches as it provides the foundation for God’s mission and salvation of mankind.
Sometimes, people speak of ecumenism, a term that defines the partnership among different churches, having regular dialogue and prayer in promoting God’s work in our Christian communities and wider secular world. Therefore, the call for ecumenical spirit among different churches, denominations and sects not only unites the people but provides for the symbol of Love, Forgiveness, Patience, Chastity, Obedience and Hope for God’s plan to manifest in our lives.
Speaking of greater ecumenism, the relieving priest to St. Mary Queen of Pacific Catholic parish at North Waigani delivered a sermon last Sunday calling for the oneness and unity among churches, particularly among the Catholics and Anglicans. He said, these two mainline churches have similar traditions in celebrating the liturgy, pastoral and spiritual formations and sharing the Word of God. He challenged them to work together, sharing each other’s gifts and continue ministering the people.
The priest also called for all unity among all different churches so that all churches become the living witnesses of God’s Kingdom but more so promote peace and justice in our communities. Churches are nothing but people. And people to people network and fellowship are resounding characteristics of God’s intimacy that leads people to live holy lives.
He invited the parishioners to be united at the family level first and such unity should be demonstrated at the parish level. Strong families who stay and work together in harmony and in union achieve greater results.
Christian foundation begins in the families and failure to cultivating Christian values in the families are causing many social problems, breeding evil that continue to disrupt the work of the Holy Spirit. These days, evil is putting human face in many forms and destroying the fabrics of family life.
The Catholic Pastoral Team of Animation from the Archdiocese of Port Moresby says in our deepest self we are like God made for unity, love and relationships with others; daughters and sons of God by our nature and therefore sisters and brothers to all.
The Pastoral team continues “Our mission is to carry on the mission of Jesus who is: creator of human life with the Father and the creative spirit; pattern of life; architect, designer and engineer of human life; and knows us from inside”.
“By Natural Law, every human being has the right to respect for his person, to his or her good reputation, the right to freedom in searching for the truth and in expressing and communicating his or her opinions and in pursuit of art, within the limits laid down by moral order and the common good; and he or she has the right to be informed truthfully about public events (Pacem In Terris, 5)”.
It is with this knowledge that Churches should not continue on creating divisions among people as this amounts to disrespect for one another.
We continue to see many of our fundamental churches competing to win souls into their churches. They buy musical instruments, build churches, and preach even into the nights. It is really deafening to the neighbours when the loud uncontrolled music is blasted away and preaching without any inspirations.
The argument that confronts all of us is why there are many churches and the government finding difficult to control them. Churches sometimes are converted into business houses and we can see this during the time of Jesus. Jesus finds the synagogue used as a market place, people doing buying and selling and He shows His anger by chasing them out of the synagogue.
The catch is this: pastors of certain churches encourage the congregation to give more tithes with the promises of more heavenly rewards or even earthly blessings in some ways. These tithes are then used to buy more properties, vehicles and other assets. Money collected through tithes are certainly not used as expected in accordance with Divine Plan.
Far more precarious is using the church documentations to acquire land titles from the Lands Department. The Lands Department gives away the land in the name Church Development and Growth but in fact the so called pastors and ministers partitioned the land to venture into commercial activities which can enrich themselves and immediate families.
Given these church issues, we are wondering whether or not the Lands Department can take a drastic measure; and even the state should make its position known by controlling the growth of many different churches. There may be issues of democratic rights and freedom of religion but the extent to which these rights go warrants careful embargo on church growth.
One reason that leads to church embargo is the issue of church cults embedded into social structures. An example of this was Black Jesus Movement in Madang. The cult leader started off as a church leader and his various misinterpretations of the Bible and other cultural superstitions led to cult movement.
Meanwhile, at the national level, the Speaker of the National Parliament based on his religious views and that of his other cohorts removed the totems and other cultural carvings of the Parliament House. Court case was instigated by aggrieved parties and it is before the courts to make deliberations.
The actions of the Speaker of the National Parliament stems from the call that was gaining momentum in Port Moresby and other places in the country for the parliament to become the House of God. As a strong Lutheran himself, he also advocated the placing of the 404 Year Old King James Bible in the parliament.
Certain MPs that included Hon. William Powi, Hon. Tobias Kulang, Hon. De Kewanu, Hon. Anton Yagama and 30 pastors from the local churches went to the United States and brought in the antique bible that was printed in 1611.
It becomes apparent that the religious views of one cannot be imposed on other people. Protesting the religious fanatic of certain MPs and their cohorts, the Catholic community in Port Moresby and the Trade Union argued and even sought Court’s opinion on the placing of the King James Bible in Parliament. At the moment the popular view on the placing of the Bible in the parliament has subsided but it ensures a potential religious conflict in the future.
We are presented with many religious views: one trying to position itself as a true church, or a new church based on the Fire of the Holy Spirit, and so forth. But the foundation to the work of God is having ecumenical spirit because we are all One in the eyes of God. We are His Children. “As Church, we are called to be the People of God; to reveal God to the World; to live according to God’s Life in us; to live as God made us to be; and witness God in the world”.
Our oneness in God is in these words: “‘Let us make humanity in our own image, in likeness of ourselves…God created humans in the image of God Himself, in the image of God He created them male and female (Gen 1:26 – 27).
Although you may be a charismatic preacher in your church performing wondrous miracles, or a politician delivering all the services in your electorate, or a student scoring higher distinctions in your exams, certainly, words of late boxing legend Mohammed Ali reminds us: “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them-a desire, a dream, and a vision. They have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.”
I must then add: “The will is seeking righteousness with God, seeking His Pardon and Mercy so that we stand as Champions in the eyes of God in the Next Life”.